Grounded in Clay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo: Helen Brooks.
Colby’s exhibition is one of three in the Northeast this summer focused on art from the Pueblo communities: The other two are at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and the Shelburne Museum in Vermont…
More radical might be “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery,” which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in July. A stunning display of Pueblo ceramics spanning a millennium — one piece, a Mogollon jar with delicate black and white spirals, a motif still used today, dates to AD 1050. “Grounded in Clay” is a landmark, the institution ceding its own ground: For the first time in The Met’s history, the exhibition is curated by an outside agency, the 60-plus member Pueblo Pottery Collective, representing 21 Indigenous communities, based in Santa Fe. Pieces were chosen from the collections of the Vilcek Foundation in New York and the Indian Arts Research Center of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe.
The show opened last summer in Santa Fe at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, so the community could see it first, said Brian Vallo, a former Acoma Pueblo governor who frequently advises museums on Pueblo exhibitions. The show makes space for the “Pueblo people themselves to tell their stories,” he said, and embodies the movement to decolonize museums’ practices around Native American culture.
For Norby, the Met’s first-ever curator of Native American art, the show is a significant marker on a trajectory she began when she joined the museum almost three years ago. Since then, Norby has been inviting Native American artists and scholars to become active collaborators, authors, and with this show, curators. “Grounded in Clay” resonates with a chorus of voices, describing, piece by piece, the works on display — works that they, as community members, have chosen.